New Delhi, Nov 16: Bollywood enthralled us with the blockbuster, The Dirty Picture, in 2011. Now, time to witness The Dirty Picture-part 2 in real life, courtesy self-proclaimed protectors of Hindu caste and religion who are well-protected and supported by political parties, ahead of the release of maverick filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali's magnum opus, Padmavati.
If Bhansali is known for making movies with huge sets, soul-stirring music, sophisticated camerawork and exquisite-looking lead actresses, his upcoming film on Rajput queen Padmavati is garnering totally opposite reactions to all things chic and beautiful that the director wants to project on screen.
On the contrary, in the real world, Bhansali was physically assaulted (earlier during the making of the film), getting regular death threats and demand to ban his film ahead of its release on December 1.
The controversy surrounding Padmavati started during its making in April this year, when a fringe group called the Shri Rajput Karni Sena decided to attack the sets of the film in Jaipur, Rajasthan protesting that the film is distorting history by showing a love scene between queen Padmini (Padmavati) and ruler Alauddin Khilji, played by Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh.
During the attack, the members of Shri Rajput Karni Sena were seen vandalising the sets and slapping the director.
It's not just the Shri Rajput Karni Sena; the film faced the wrath from several groups alleging distortion of history by the makers. Rajput groups, in particular, questioned the authenticity of Padmavati--Bhansali's ambitious project based on the legend of Rani Padmini of Chittor.
After the ugly episode in April, Bhansali issued a clarification stating that there are no such "love scenes" as alleged by the Rajput group regarding their revered queen in the film.
With the passage of time, it looked that the dust has settled, till the storm over Padmavati erupted once again after the makers released the trailer for the film several days ago.
The Shri Rajput Karni Sena once again came back to hog the limelight over its demand to ban the film. The protest over the film soon turned political as both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress backed the opponents of the film keeping in mind the upcoming Gujarat Assembly elections scheduled on December 9 and 14.
In fact, BJP MLA Ram Kadam on Wednesday warned that if the filmmaker did not remove "objectionable scenes" from Padmavati, he would not be allowed to shoot any movie in the future. Kadam heads the Film Studio Setting and Allied Majdoor Union.
"Our union will not support a person who distorts history for the publicity of his film and will demand a ban if needed," Kadam told ANI. "If Bhansali does not agree [to delete some scenes], our union will not let him shoot any film in the future."
Prior to Kadam's threats, the Kshatriya community leaders from the BJP have apparently written to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) demanding the stalling of Padmavati's release ahead of Gujarat elections.
They feel that Rani Padmavati has been presented in a poor light and in order to ensure that no community is offended, the censor board should review it again and release it with appropriate certification.
Opposing the release of the period drama, Chintamani Malviya, BJP MP from Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh has said that those like Bhansali only understands the "language of shoes".
"People like Bhansali do not understand any other language. People like him only understand the language of shoes. This country will not disrespect Rani Padmavati. We will not tolerate any distortion of our history," the 48- year-old MP wrote in a Facebook post recently.
The former royals of Jaipur have joined the opposition to the film. Divya Kumari, whose grandfather was the last ruler of Jaipur, said "The women of Rajasthan are very upset with this film made on a queen who is the epitome of sacrifice." Kumari is a BJP law-maker in Rajasthan.
The most high-profile BJP leader who has openly protested against Padmavati and its lead actress Deepika is none other than Subramanian Swamy. The veteran leader condemned Deepika for giving a "lecture on regression."
Here's what Swamy tweeted:
Cine actress Deepika Padukone giving us lecture on regression!! Nation can progress only when it is regression from her perspective.— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) November 14, 2017
Before lashing out against Deepika, Swamy claimed that Padmavati was funded from Dubai and is a part of an international conspiracy to defame Hindu women.
Swamy's anger against the popular actress was triggered after she told news agency IANS that India has "regressed as a nation" while she was reacting to a series of controversies being faced by the unreleased film.
During the interview with IANS on Tuesday, Deepika spoke at length about the mentality of citizens, objecting to Padmavati. "It's appalling, it's absolutely appalling. What have we gotten ourselves into? And where have we reached as a nation? We have regressed," Deepika told IANS.
In fact, on Tuesday a mall in Kota, Rajasthan was attacked as it screened the trailer of the film. The attack came hours after Deepika spoke to IANS.
The latest development regarding Padmavati vis-à-vis the BJP is that the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh on Thursday said that the release of the film could cause law and order problem in the state.
Along with the BJP, the Congress too has joined the ban Padmavati chorus. The Rajasthan unit of Congress has also demanded a ban on its screening if the film distorts history.
State Congress spokesperson and Jaipur district President Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said that Padmavati is a symbol of prestige and pride in India's history. "Padmavati along with 16,000 women from all religions committed Jauhar (mass self-immolation) and it shows women's sacrifice for prestige and pride. India's history is its heritage," he added.
With each passing day, the squabble over the film is also getting dirtier, which does not augur well for its release.
In fact, on Wednesday, the Shri Rajput Karni Sena had called for a Bharat Bandh (shutdown) on December 1 if Padmavati releases on that date. Meanwhile, as a precautionary measure, the Maharashtra government provided security cover for the filmmaker in view of the increasing controversies and growing threats surrounding the film.
"We will hold rallies across the country, including Gurugram, Patna, Lucknow and Bhopal before the release date," Lokendra Singh Kalvi, founder-patron of the Shri Rajput Karni Sena, told reporters in Jaipur. He said all communities, including Muslims, supported the Sena on the issue.
"We demand a complete ban on the film. Now, we don't want any pre-screening of the movie. All we want is a ban," he added.
The irony is that all those who are protesting against the film are yet to watch it, but they are sure that the makers of the film have distorted history to hurt Hindu and specifically Rajput sentiments.
The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is yet to certify the film before its release. Now, all eyes are on the censor board, as the CBFC is popularly known as.
Will the film be allowed to screen without any cuts? Or, will the censor board, which falls under the information and broadcasting ministry, succumb to the pressure of protesters before the all-important Gujarat Assembly elections?